Childhood Pain – should I be worried about my child’s pain?
As parents – we can be easily concerned when our children aren’t comfortable, complain of pain or get sick.
It's common for our children to experience pain and discomfort regularly – with most of it being nothing to worry about.
There is a small percentage of childhood pain with certain signs and symptoms that you should be aware of, that’s where we are here to help.
Take a read through our blog on childhood pain to look at common conditions which children are likely to get and what you need to do.
So you might have gone to the GP about your children having pain and been told not to worry as it is just ‘growing pains’. For the most part – you don’t need to be concerned.
Children and teenagers may experience different types of pain as their bodies develop and grow quickly. These painful episodes tend to happen in short periods over days and weeks and will resolve without the need for any sort of treatment.
Pain can be experienced as aching, cramps and general discomfort which will present on a night time and usually resolving by the morning time.
There is no clearly defined reason why pain is experienced but common opinion is that due to the rapid growth of bones and soft tissues in growth spurts – it makes it harder for these tissues to keep up with the active demand of being a child.
A key part of the growth process involves growth plates which are areas of bones which move apart and widen to allow bones to lengthen and grow. When these growth plates are expanding – they may not be able to deal well with excess activity placed through them. There are also soft tissues like tendons which are located near to growth plates – this can be another source of growing pains and they also have to change and adapt to bone length.
Growing pains can be more common in children who play sports or are very active.
Common Childhood Pain Syndromes
These are the top 3 most common problems that children experience when they are growing and are very active. The ankle, knee and hip are typically affected as they are areas which deal with running, jumping and activity.
These problems will flare up when your child does a lot of activity. If you have a child that does a lot of exercise, plays sport and is active every day, then there is a chance they may develop one or more of these issues.
A sure-fire way for these symptoms to start will be with a sudden change in activity levels. For example – kids sports starting again after lockdown. We have already had several enquiries with children who have had pain develop in recent weeks after restarting their exercise regimes.
Severs – is a problem which causes pain into the heel area. Its official name is severs disease, although it is not a disease. Pain is usually experienced with prolonged activity, when it gets worse it can affect simple day to day walking. It can be easily diagnosed with a pinch type of squeeze to either side of the heel.
Osgood Schlatter’s – this knee complaint causes pain on activity and sometimes at rest when worse. The problem is caused by an excess build-up of calcium/bone underneath the patella tendon insertion. When running, jumping and kicking the kneecap tendon rubs over the bone build-up causing pain. The knee will be sore to touch underneath the kneecap and exercise and walking will be difficult.
Hip Apophysitis - this problem is felt on the front of the hip, on the crest of the pelvis – close to where a growth plate is. This is where the hip flexor tendon joins to the pelvis. Pain when lifting the hip and running is common. This problem can be particularly problematic for walking when worse as it can cause a limp.
Growing pain type issues are not limited to these joints. As mentioned earlier – muscles of the legs can experience deep ache and cramp.
How do I manage my child’s pain?
There is a really simple and straight forward way to managing your child’s pain - use this simple step by step guide:
- Relative Rest – remove or reduce their activity for a short period to see how their symptoms respond. If their body cannot take the demand that it is being placed under, it becomes painful. Take a week off sport and then think about restarting at a reduced amount.
- Pain Relief – use of child-appropriate ibuprofen and paracetamol to help with ease of symptoms.
- Cold and Heat Packs – these can be soothing options and act as a distraction from the pain. Cold can help if anything is swollen and heat can be good if they are experiencing stiffness of joints or cramping of muscles.
- Gentle stretching exercises can help to reduce pain in soft tissues which may have become painful. Keep the areas mobile and active but without intense exercise that involves impact. Swimming can also be a great option.
Do not let your child make their pain worse. Do not let them play sport excessively with any of their symptoms.
In worse cases – especially with Osgood Schlatter and hip apophysitis – the tendons that attach around the knee and hip areas can be damaged or torn from its attachment – this does not happen very often but it is important to take notice of your child’s pain level and walking style and limit their activity as needed until their pain settles.
Serious Signs & Symptoms
Here are some of the more serious symptoms which may indicate a more complex problem that your GP should deal with:
- the pain carries on the next morning
- the pain is bad enough to stop your child walking or makes them limp significantly.
- the pain is in a joint, such as their knees or ankles
- there's a rash, swelling or unusual bruising on the legs
- your child has a high temperature
- your child does not want to eat or is losing weight
Without mentioning a specific diagnosis as there lots of potential problems. Look out for any of these key warning signs as they can indicate your child may have an infection or a problem which requires urgent assessment.
Does Your Child Have Growing Pain?
We hope that this guide has helped to inform you and make you feel more confident about what to look for if your child does have pain.
If you have any questions about your child, feel free to phone the clinic before contacting your GP – we are happy to provide advice.
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